by Louisa May Alcott, 1868 & 1869
Somewhat autobiographical: Louisa & Jo are closely related.
List of Characters (in order of appearance):
Jo: Leading Lady. 15 years old, described as boyish, though she seems more awkward than masculine. Bookworm.
Meg: Jo's older sister, 16 years. Prim & a bit fussy, kind & mothering.
Mother/Marmee: A Christian woman in every sense of the word. Loves her girls.
Amy: Youngest of the sisters, a bit self-important, puts on airs.
Beth: Just older than Amy. Introspective, quiet.
Father: Away as a Chaplin in the Civil War. Sends letters full of love & wishes for the growth of his "Little Women."
King Children: Well-to-do acquaintances who are neither happy nor well-behaved.
Hannah: A servant in the March household, "considered a friend more than a servant."
Aunt March: A relative the girls make sheets for.
German family: recipients of the March family's Christmas breakfast.
Mr. Laurence: sends over Christmas dinner
Scrabble: The rat in Jo's attic. I wonder if he's autobiographical?? [shudder]
Ms. Gardiner:Throws the party Jo & Meg attend.
Sallie: A girl at the party
(Theodore) Laurie Laurence: grandson of Mr. Laurence. Hides in the same alcove as Jo & they chat then dance at the party.
Annie Moffat: Sallie's friend who invites Meg for a week-long visit to include a trip to the Opera.
Chapter 1: It's Christmas Eve (how very seasonal for us to read this now!) and the March girls begin the evening by sitting around and complaining, but soon enough they find better things to do. They plan gifts for their mother, read a letter from Father in which he encourages them to be their best selves, which they resolve to do, and then the girls practice their play.
Chapter 2: Christmas morning starts out with gifts from Mother (a Bible?) and then they continue on with some unexpected Christmas service: they give their holiday breakfast to a family that's even poorer than they are. But the day continues in a jolly & festive vein. They perform the play and are given a lovely Christmas dinner by a neighbor that heard about them giving away their breakfast.
Chapter 3: Meg and Jo are invited to, fuss over, and then attend a dinner/dance party. Meg is much more at ease in this sort of situation, but sprains her ankle. Jo makes a mess of everything, but gets to know the neighbor boy, Laurie, who takes them home in his carriage because of Meg's ankle.
Mrs. March is a gem of a woman; a true Christian. Hannah's description says it all:
"Where is Mother?" asked Meg, as she and Jo ran down to thank her for their gifts, half an hour later.
"Goodness only knows. Some poor creeter come a-beggin', and your ma went straight off to see what was needed. There never was such a woman for givin' away vittles and drink, clothes and firin'," replied Hannah...
Although the girls (being ordinary mortals) are having a hard time with having such a slim Christmas, they do a right decent job of making their own fun without a lot of Things. -The gifts for Mother, the Christmas breakfast, the homemade theater, the resolve to be better women. These are all the acts of remarkable young women.
Other, Outside Stuff:
Found a literary timeline that places some books (not ours) alongside some historical events (I'm thinking BoC) and also mentions a bit about literary movements. It would appear that Little Women fits in nicely with their definition of the "Realism" movement, wherein authors wrote about ordinary, rather than extraordinary things.